This work investigates hydrologic and geochemical interactions in the Critical Zone (CZ) using high-resolution reactive transport modeling. Reactive transport models can be used to predict the response of geochemical weathering and solute fluxes in the CZ to changes in a dynamic environment, such as those pertaining to human activities and climate change in recent years. The scales of hydrology and geochemistry in the CZ range from days to eons in time and centimeters to kilometers in space. Here, we present results of a multi-dimensional, multi-scale hydro-geochemical model to investigate the role of subsurface heterogeneity on the formation of mineral weathering fronts in the CZ, which requires consideration of many of these spatio-temporal scales. The model is implemented using the reactive transport code PFLOTRAN, an open source subsurface flow and reactive transport code that utilizes parallelization over multiple processing nodes and provides a strong framework for simulating weathering in the CZ. The model is set up to simulate weathering dynamics in the mountainous catchments representative of the Colorado Front Range. Model parameters were constrained based on hydrologic, geochemical, and geophysical observations from the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory (BcCZO). Simulations were performed in fractured rock systems and compared with systems of heterogeneous and homogeneous permeability fields. Tracer simulations revealed that the mean residence time of solutes was drastically accelerated as fracture density increased. In simulations that include mineral reactions, distinct signatures of transport limitations on weathering arose when discrete flow paths were included. This transport limitation was related to both advective and diffusive processes in the highly heterogeneous systems (i.e. fractured media and correlated random permeability fields with σlnk > 3). The well-known time-dependence of mineral weathering rates was found to be the most pronounced in the fractured systems, with a departure from the maximum system-averaged dissolution rate occurring after ~100 kyr followed by a gradual decrease in the reaction rate with time that persists beyond 104 kyr.
Pandey, S, and Rajaram, H. (2015): Resolving the Multi-scale Behavior of Geochemical Weathering in the Critical Zone Using High Resolution Hydro-geochemical Models. H52C-07 Modeling the Critical Zone: Integrating Processes and Data across Disciplines and Scales I, presented at 2015 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 14-18 Dec..